Merchants of Madness by Bertil Lintner and Michael Black

Reviewed by David Scott Mathieson

International drug experts and Myanmar’s military regime have for years trumpeted the terminal decline of opium cultivation in the notorious Golden Triangle area. Self-congratulatory predictions of opium’s last gasp in Southeast Asia, however, were recently met with a harsh reality: production actually increased by 46% in 2007, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Alarming as this sounds, including the explosion of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), better known as speed, there can be no confidence that drug control in Myanmar will any time soon turnsuccessful. Dramatic ATS production from northern Myanmar (some estimates claim hundreds of millions of pills a year) have since the mid-1990s enriched narco-entrepreneurs and their ethnic insurgent allies and exposed the ineffectiveness of Myanmar’s United Nations-backed drug control program.
Bertil Lintner, one of the world’s most-respected analysts of Myanmar’s Byzantine drug trade, with co-author Michael Black, a security writer with Jane’s Intelligence Review, have written a short, sharp book on the dynamics of Myanmar’s ATS trade. Merchants of Madness has the fast pace and almost unbelievable dramatics of a thriller. That is, except that it’s all true. continue

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